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How to Organize Outdoor Gear

Outdoor Family Gear Organization

Having all your gear perfectly organized is the thing of dreams. And although I try my best, we still go through bouts where we get unorganized. And it seems like the only way to fix it would be a week of only me in the house to put it back in order (which obviously will NEVER happen).

So, how do I try and get it done? And I say TRY because I really do struggle here. There is just not enough time in a day! But, I start by trying to tackle small things or areas, one at a time.

How the chaos starts? When we don’t put something away when we get home. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. You put it near where it goes, but just not quite in its home. Slowly the pile of “close enough” builds and then soon enough, its all out of order again. I am SOOOO guilty of this! Despite my best intentions of staying organized, I am constantly guilty of not taking the extra few seconds to put the darn thing where it belongs!

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Create an Organization System That Works for Your Family!

The first step to having organization that works is finding something that works for your family and the gear you have. It’s also important to have a system that the whole family can participate in so everyone can help put things away where they belong.

Decide How You Want to Organize

What works for us might not work for you and your spaces, so finding a solution that fits your family’s needs is the first order of business. Do you participate in a lot of activities that have some cross over gear? Or is most of your gear a “single activity” gear? This might determine how you fill your bins and storage space. Also figuring out what you use frequently and not that often and prioritizing your space with that in mind.

Use Storage Bins for Outdoor Gear

We LOVE using storage bins to keep our stuff organized. Some of our favorite totes that have held up are the Rubbermaid Roughneck totes (going on 10+ years on some). We also like the Greenmade Heavy Duty Storage Totes. The Greenmade are a harder, rigid plastic where the Rubbermaids have a little more flex to them. Both are the best camping gear storage bins.

Both are durable! The Greenmade lids have cracked when sat on, so don’t use them as a seat ;). Neither are water or air tight, but do a good job of keeping the elements out!

If you don’t need something as rugged, these clear totes are great for at home organization since you can see through them. But, they are not great for heavy loads and are not quite as durable as the ones above. However, they do a great job on shelves and I have stored the girls in-between clothes in these for many years! I use the smaller bins for little accessories, etc and the bigger bins for clothes.

Not only is a tower of totes and boxes unsightly, its very unsafe too. You don’t want your little one try to summit Mt. StorageTote and create an earthquake. Only stack bins 2 high (maybe 3 of the Greenmades since they stack very well) or invest in some shelving. Shelves also save you the bin shuffle every time you need the one on the bottom, which is EVERY time.

I’m a big fan of the bin method  – makes grabbing and going much easier for a trip! 

TMM Team Member Ginny

Shelves to store outdoor gear

Shelving helps keep your things organized, maximize space, and keep things off the floor (super helpful in basements and garages or any place that has a potential for a wet floor). There are many options for pre-made shelves or a quick Google search of DIY Storage Bin Shelves will leave you with many ideas on how to build your own!

We like using these type of wire shelves for all our totes and gear. They are sturdy, you can customize the height as needed and some some with wheels or as an add-on if you like to be able to move things around. You can also get hooks and baskets to add on to them for additional storage.

How to organize outdoor gear

The wire shelves are also relatively easy to disassemble and move to a new house if you aren’t in your forever home yet. (A rubber mallet or a hammer with a piece of wood helps with disassembly.) Although I have assembled and disassembled by myself, its best done with a partner.

Tip: If you have the wire shelves without wheels, raise the lowest shelf to the top of a bin sitting on the floor. This will give you another “shelf”. Just be cautious how you load your shelves in this configuration as it could be a little more unstable compared to putting the first shelf at the very bottom.

Just a reminder when using shelving, always keep heavier items toward the bottom. And if you have kids who might like to climb the shelves, make sure to anchor them to the wall so they can’t tip over.

Hang backpacks on hooks

Having a place to hang gear is awesome. If you have a basement with exposed beams above, grab some hooks and screw them in to create a gear drying space. It’s a great way to hang your sleeping bags after a trip, hang your tent, or backpacks. Add an oscillating fan and your stuff will be dry in no time.

Add hooks on the wall for hiking poles, backpacks, life jackets, helmets, chairs, or for whatever needs hanging.

Hooks in the garage is a great way to store wet gear that you don’t want in the house yet. Perfect for life jackets, waders, wet rain gear, etc. L brackets or hooks are a great way to store chairs and tentpoles.

We keep hooks in the garage for hanging wet life jackets and gear after a trip. We keep huge bins for different sports (life jackets get stored in a big tub, backpacking packs and gear in another tub, stoves/fuel/bear spray in another, 2 kitchen gear tubs (1 for car camping, 1 for backpacking).  Paddleboards are kept hanging off ceiling racks and bikes hang on walls. We keep our daypacks packed and ready to go in the mudroom!

TMM Team Member Ginny
Use hooks to organize outdoor gear
L brackets or hooks are a great way to store chairs and tentpoles.

Gear Maintenance Drawers or Bins

Having a dedicated tool or maintenance box for your activities makes fixing up a little easier when your bikes/skis/gear needs a little tune up. Something that we just picked up was a tool chest just for our bike stuff. This holds all our bike maintenance items like tools, cleaning supplies and spare parts. It’s on wheels, so we can move it around the garage when its time to make a repair.

Side note- we also recommended this bike maintenance stand buy Park Tools if you do home bike maintenance.

For winter sports gear tuning, a mobile workbench or dedicated set of drawers where you do your tuning is super helpful in keeping waxes and tools accessible.

For general gear cleaning and repair, dedicate a tote or some cabinet space to store all your gear cleaning and repair supplies like Nikwax, Tenacious Tape, or seam sealant!

Outdoor Gear Storage Hacks

Use Storage Bags

A big lifesaver for us lately has been using mesh bags for our bike helmets. The idea came to me after my new bike helmet came with a bag, I went and ordered these mesh bags for the girls helmets right away. I love that they are pretty durable and have a hook at the top for hanging. We have a hook on the garage wall where they hang.

Each girl has their own bag and it stores their bike helmet, gloves, and knee pads. We often drive to go bike, so the bags have been super handy when we are loading up.

organize bike gear with mesh bags

The bags would also work great for winter sports helmets or other gear that needs ventilation.

For bigger balls or sand and water toys, I like larger mesh bags like this one! Just toss all the wet water play toys in it, leave in a ventilated area and DONE.

Label your gear!

Labels make everything so much easier. Label all your storage bins, bags, and totes. Label clothes, jackets, and mittens. Label, label, label! It helps you find what you are looking for faster and help get your stuff back to you if you lose it (hopefully).

For labeling my bins, I prefer having typed labels rather than handwritten. I think it gives a neater appearance and I don’t love my handwriting. I like using shipping labels with a big heading with the main contents ie “Water Supply and Storage” and in little text below, a little more descriptive like “bladders, bottles, canteens, stuff sacks, and hauler”. Then, just stick them to the bin! Sometimes you need a little extra packing tape to hold them on, but most the time they hang on if they are just in your basement. The shipping labels also peel off clean when its time to change.

Camping gear storage ideas

You can also just stick masking or duct tape to the bin and write with a sharpie as well.

For labeling clothing, jackets, and gear, I have been super happy with Inchbug labels. We have them in the girls jackets, mittens, water bottles, lunch pails, helmets and more. I even ordered some plain ones for some of our grown-up things like the dog’s remote, our lunch pails, helmets, etc.! We use the rectangle and clothing tag pal labels. I have only ordered one set of each so far, but I haven’t even used them all up yet, and I feel like I have labeled a lot of stuff!

How to keep books and maps organized

I feel like every time we come back from a trip we have more maps, guidebooks, field guides and pamphlets from the destination we just explored. So, what do you do with all those?? Some of them you probably don’t need to keep long term, so recycle or pass on to a friend headed there. For what you are keeping, figure out a filing and storage system that works for you, and file them away.

For books, we love to have our guidebooks just on a bookshelf in our living room. Adventure is what we love, so we keep the books where we can see them to remind us of the adventures we have had and are going to have! For those nice hiking maps you purchased, make a spot in your filing cabinet or get a file box for your items and organize by state, region, etc.

If space is an issue or you don’t need to buy a new book for your trip, try checking your local library before your trip. Then you can just return the book when you get home and that’s one less book to store!

Another thing I like to do after a trip is put all the “souvenirs” in a hanging pocket folder. Things like wristbands, park maps, tickets, etc. I save them until I can scan them into my computer to eventually put into a Shutterfly photo book (I am only a few trips behind…) then away they go.

Speciality Items

Some bigger items get a little tricky to store and some, like my Burley trailer, I have yet to find a way to get it off the garage floor. But some things we have figured out, here are some of our favorite ways to store some of those awkward items.

keep your garage organized

How to Organize Bikes

If you are like us and have more bikes than family members… you need a good storage solution. This summer we started using some pedal mount bike hangers in our garage. I like them because they get the bikes up higher without sticking out a ton. We could probably get 3 bikes high in our garage if we wanted to because they are angled.

Hang your bikes to keep them organized
Bikes hung with pedal hangars and our new bike maintenance chest.

We also use the Hornit CLUG bike racks for the kids bikes. The nice thing is they are small and store the bikes vertically. The girls (ages 5 and 2) can get their bikes out by themselves (which was something I wanted), but they still have trouble getting them back in for now.

If your bike rack doesn’t just live on your vehicle all year round, I recommend a garage dock for your hitch mount like the Kuat Rack Dock. It keeps your rack mounted to the wall and off the floor. Now you can’t put bikes on it while it’s on the wall, but it does keep you from tripping over you rack in the middle of the garage floor when its not in use.

We don’t have a mudroom. (A huge frustration!) Instead we use our closets and garage. In the garage, we built some pegs for our helmets and a ski rack for skis and poles. We also use a peg board for Yak Tracks and snow shoes. We hang my husband’s bikes from our ceiling and use the VelociRAX for everyone else’s bikes.

TMM Team Member Becky

Camping Gear Storage Ideas: Tents

After our tents are dry, we store them in their storage bag on a shelf with our totes. We store the tent poles separately though!

Tent poles with elastic cord in them don’t like to be kept bent and shoved in a bag. Store them connected, or mostly connected behind a couch, under a bed, through the rafters, or install some “L” brackets to hang them from in order to keep them extended.

how to store tent poles

How to Store Roof Top Boxes, Canoes, & Kayaks

We have a roof top box that gets used infrequently. We needed it out of the way in the garage, so we hoisted it up to the ceiling! A simple pully system like this one can work for rooftop racks, kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, or even bikes. The goal… get stuff off the floor so you have space to park and work!

How to Store Sleeping Bags and Pads

Sleeping bags should be stored loose, not compressed (after its clean and dry). Most sleeping bags come with a storage bag. You can hang these from hooks, toss them in a bin, or leave them on the shelf. Just make sure they can breathe!

For our self-inflating sleeping pads, those are stored unrolled with the valve open under a spare bed. Other great locations include behind a couch or standing up in a closet. Non-self inflating can be stored by the manufacturer recommendation, but most are good just getting tossed in a bin after they are clean and dry.

Stay Organized and Stay Ready

Staying organized is easier said than done, but hopefully you can work together as a family to figure out what works best for you so you can find what you need for your next adventure quickly!

In order to stay ready for our next adventure, I like to have a few extra totes that have no purpose except to get packed for trips. They normally are just sitting empty in the basement, waiting for an adventure. However, getting them unpacked as soon as we get back is sometimes the challenge.

If you have any great ideas or tips for keeping up with the chaos, leave a comment below! We would love to hear them.

How to organize camping gear

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How to Organize Outdoor Gear

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